Sherborne councillor Marjorie Snowden accused over Muslim jibe
A SHERBORNE councillor has been accused of describing "all Muslims as terrorists" during a training session on equality and diversity.
Former mayor Marjorie Snowden, a town and district councillor, is also alleged to have said: "Why should we be interested in black history?" – according to a report.
Mrs Snowden denies the allegations and was due to appear at a hearing before West Dorset District Council's standards committee yesterday.
Investigating officer Roger Greene was to present a report which recommended she had breached the code of conduct relating to lack of respect after two complaints were made.
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Sue Bickle, community development team leader and lead officer for equalities, and Molly Rennie, a district councillor for Dorchester, filed the complaints which Mrs Snowden denies as "completely unfounded."
The allegations relate to an equalities and diversity training session held at West Dorset District Council on June 28, 2012, which Mrs Snowden attended as a district councillor, a post she has held for more than ten years.
Complainant Ms Bickle, who ran the session, alleged Mrs Snowden made deliberate attempts to disrupt the training.
In the report she alleged: "Councillor Snowden made remarks which were clearly hostile to the Muslim community and bordering on religious hatred, identifying all Muslims as terrorists."
Ms Bickle also alleged Mrs Snowden asked: "Why should we be interested in black history?"
She said: "I struggled to complete the session feeling extremely bullied, victimised and vulnerable."
In a statement Jane Nicklen, head of community planning and development and Ms Bickle's line manager, claimed Mrs Snowden also made a "derogatory aside" about homosexuals.
In the report, complainant Mrs Rennie said: "I found the behaviour offensive. We have seen this before from this member. I spoke with another member about this who understood but just said, 'Well that's Marjorie'. She took no account of the personal experiences or situations of others in the room."
Responding to the complaints in a questionnaire, Mrs Snowden said: "I do not accept the criticisms or allegations made against me.
"Ms Bickle unfortunately is incompetent as a trainer and was not suited to dealing with the session I attended. I am afraid the truth does hurt on occasion. The session is a waste of council taxpayers' money. My comments at all times were personal from me and because I believed them to be true."
Mrs Snowden added she felt there was a degree of "political mischief or bias" from Mrs Rennie.
Other meeting attendees interviewed in the report included Dominic Elliott, deputy mayor and district councillor for Sherborne east, who said: "I am sorry that Sue Bickle felt threatened during the session but I feel Mrs Snowden's questions were acceptable in any debate or discussion."
In his report Mr Greene said: "There is no doubt in my mind that whatever intentions Councillor Snowden had they did upset and embarrass in particular Sue Bickle and Jane Nicklen.
"I feel I have no option but to find that Councillor Snowden did breach the code of conduct."
Members due to sit on the panel yesterday included district councillor Terry Farmer, for Sherborne east, and district councillor Peter Shorland, also for the Sherborne west ward.
Mrs Snowden declined to comment further when contacted by the Western Gazette.